Less time to apply for Britons' residency card for France

Britons now face more time pressure to apply for the obligatory Brexit withdrawal agreement residency cards they will need in France, say campaigners.

27 June 2020
By Liv Rowland

The French government has so far maintained a deadline of June 30, 2021 for all Britons here to have applied for the cards despite postponing the opening of a new website to do so for three months.

The delay was announced online this morning.

The card could be used to show holders are residents of France from January 1, 2021, in such cases, for example, as at passport control when entering France. It would differentiate holders from non-resident visitors and tourists who will have stricter limits on the amount of time they are legally allowed to remain in the EU. From January 1, 2021, the UK will be treated by the EU bloc as a non-EU country.

The residency cards are needed for Britons to continue to legally live in France after the Brexit transition period, which ends December 31, 2020. French statistics body Insee estimates there are around 150,000 British residents in France, however the exact figure is unknown and the British Embassy has in the past quoted to Connexion a 'working figure' of 400,000 or more.

The vice chairman of the British Community Committee of France (BCC) Christopher Chantrey said he learned of the postponement this morning on seeing the news on France’s Brexit website. He had been waiting for clarifications from the Interior Ministry.

He said: “The consequence for us is we now don’t have 12 months to apply for cards, but we are down to nine months, unless they extend the period in 2021, which France can do under the [Brexit] Withdrawal Agreement if there are unforeseen circumstances.

“To play Devil’s Advocate, it may be the ministry had hoped it would be possible to go ahead in July until the last minute but they just realised yesterday that there just aren’t enough of the people who have to do the work who are there [due to the Covid-19 crisis].”

He added: “If you applied last year on the no-deal cards website you do not need to reapply on the new site and you are independent of whatever difficulties they are having with the new site – you just need to wait.

“But I think if anyone was still tempted to apply for a traditional [EU citizen’s] card via a prefecture, I don’t think there is any point now. There is no point doing anything until October now.”

The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA), which is now an international treaty between the UK and EU, aims to protect the main rights of Britons living abroad in the EU, including residency and working rights.

This will become vital after the end of the Brexit transition period, now almost certainly from January 1, 2021, since the UK has refused to extend the period. During the transition period, Britons, while no longer considered EU citizens, maintain most of the same rights automatically as the UK has remained temporarily in the EU’s single market, which includes free movement rules. Afterwards they will be 'third-country citizens' with no automatic residency rights apart from those conferred by the WA.

Under the WA there are two possibilities. Firstly EU states may consider that the WA rights have been automatically acquired by Britons living legally and stably in their country, but may nonetheless ask them to apply for cards to provide evidence of their status (this is similar to the situation of EU citizens in France although residency cards are optional). 

States may alternatively require Britons to apply for a new residence status which confers the rights under the WA treaty, and a document giving evidence of this. This is the approach taken by France (as well as the UK, with its 'settled status') and it means Britons in France would have no legal residency status after the cut-off period at the end of June 2021 if they do not apply for a card.

The WA says the deadline for applying where a card is required to confer the legal residency status shall be ‘not less’ than six months after the end of the transition period, implying that France could extend this deadline if it wished.

The treaty refers to applying for a card, as opposed to obtaining it, so it is understood that as long as Britons have applied via the site and obtained a récépissé (acknowledgement) of their application, then they will remain legal residents while their application is processed.

The WA also says in article 18 that if there are ‘technical problems’ that are preventing a state from processing applications, then the deadline may be extended by a year. 

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French website for residency cards for Britons delayed

BCC's Christopher Chantrey, with fellow rights campaigners BiE co-chair Jane Golding and Anne-Laure Donskoy of the3million
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